Dec 9, 2011

This is a brewing controversy that is starting to gain more media attention. On the campus of Georgetown, famed author Dr. Michael Eric Dyson is teaching a sociology course based around the lyrics of Jay-Z.

There are a lot of people for the course, but there is a mounting number of people starting to criticize the class and it's place in an academic setting.

So the question is, Does the lyrics of Jay-Z belong in an academic setting?

Is Dr. Michael Eric Dyson truly trying to educate young people on the plight of the 'Black Man' through the lenses of Jay-Z or is he just trying to exploit one of his celebrity friendships for some more media attention? Does using Jay-Z as the archetype of black men present a monolithic view of the black man's path or does Jay-Z serve as one of the best examples of a black man turning his life around for the better?

If Jay-Z is a good subject for a college, then what other rappers would you like to see courses taught on? And on the subject of rappers at the top of their game, why do we always tend to forget the story of Will Smith? His is one of the most compelling stories. He went from rapper to dominating the movie industry. That is just unheard of.

Personally, outside of Biggie and Tupac, I would like to see someone dissect the lyrics of Outkast, Lauryn Hill, Common, Nas, and Eminem. Those rappers are a little more my flavor.

Besides, have Michael Jackson, James Brown or Marvin Gaye ever been given courses?

Side note:
No offense to any of the Jay-Z fans, but did he seriously just compare Jay-Z to Toni Morrison and Langston Hughes? Maybe something was wrong with my hearing.


  1. Case studies are used all the time to discuss broader topics and to provide examples of certain ideas, theories, principles, etc. Jay-Z is simply a case study. Dr.Dyson was clear that he students are learning about other sociological concepts as well. Ultimately are the students achieving the learning objectives? When the course evaluations are completed are the students viewing the course favorably?

    To say that one subject is not worthy of intellectual discussion, to me is haughty and elitist. We all know that hip-hop has a tremendous impact on American culture. Dr. Dyson has long promoted the idea that rappers have given voice to the plight of those growing up poor, fatherless, in the hood and all that comes along with that circumstance. I work in higher education at a fairly reputable, large,research university. Faculty regularly use current events, pop culture, and the like to engage students and to create an active learning environment for their students. I use it when I teach and it makes a difference.

    As for the comparisons to other beloved authors, and poets, is hip-hop and rap a valid art form or not? Many lyrics of alot of songs and raps, if were written in a poetry format, or delivered in. "spoken word" forum we would be blown away. But instead it is delivered in a way that many think is unworthy and less than. I think Dr. Dyson is trying to elevate the status of hip-hop and I think he has a valid and compelling argument.

  2. I'm sorry but if Jay-Z deserves to be covered in a college course then so should Iceberg Slim because that is who I equate Jay-Z to. You wonder why black boys worship movies like Scarface well the fact that we hold someone like Jay-Z as the pinnacle of success is a reason why. A man who calls women bitches and hoes and exalts the life of drugs is the prefect example of the black man. Nigga Please!

    I love Hip-Hop too but just because they make money doesn't mean they're uplifting their people.

    Tell Jay to stand for something more in his lyrics than money and bitches and maybe I can respect him.

  3. So in a sociology class,students cannot explore how a man can begin to generate wealth through penning and rapping lyrics that go against the values of a particular society? There are no sociological implications that can be gleaned from his life? I am not a sociologist nor am I the biggest fan of hip-hop. In the end,I think the course evaluations and the learning outcomes will be the judge as to whether or not this type of academic pursuit is worthwhile.

    In answer to one of the questions, I think there would be a debate no matter who was chosen as the subject of the course, be it Michael Jackson, Will Smith, etc. That is to study their impact on our culture outside of their respective fields of music and acting.